Evacuation Drill Prepares Fire, Police

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It took almost an hour for Payson police officers to simulate a neighborhood wildfire evacuation Saturday.

"It went well," said police chief Gordon Gartner. "The neighbors were very cooperative and helpful.

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A command post was set up at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the corner of Aero and Ponderosa, which borders the evacuated neighborhood. Officers met there to receive their assigned duties.

"In a real evacuation it would take time for people to leave and obviously it would not go that fast. People would have questions.

"We learned that we could get ourselves organized in a timely fashion and that not all the calling tree volunteers were getting their pages," Gartner said.

Payson police officers also learned that their map of the houses in the area needs to be updated. Vacant lots are listed where houses now stand.

In a major fire situation there would likely be several day's notice of an evacuation, and incoming highways could be shut off to lessen traffic. Flexibility based on the situation would be key.

Police officers were joined by Payson firefighters Saturday. The two departments learned to better the flow of information and streamline redundant requests.

They were also able to test the radio interoperability unit they obtained with a homeland security grant. The radio monitors eight disparate radio frequencies at once between agencies involved in a disaster. It also functions as a repeater.

Table top exercises are the next disaster planning meetings that will take place.

"Overall it was a solid plan," fire chief Martin deMasi said.

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